Australian Life Through the Eyes of a Returning Native

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A rich background in fashion photography has put New York-based photographer Simon Eeles in good stead for his recent work in capturing intimate stills of Australian life, published this Fall as the photobook Australiana. Going back to his homeland after years spent in the US and abroad, Simon photographs incredible landscapes, candid scenes, beachside moments, and all in a sun-kissed and affectionate glow.

There is a certain nostalgia evoked by his shots, that of home seen through the eyes of the returning voyager: that of one in whom travel has shifted something deep, something experiential. Combining the devil-may-care swagger of New York streets with the authenticity of day-to-day life, his photographs are an account of love for his birthplace and family.

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“The core idea to my work is the celebration of happiness”, Simon tells us; “my nephew and nieces wanted to see what I had been doing in NYC, so we did a little shoot in my mothers backyard. These images were the foundation for the book. They had the feeling and energy that paved the way for all the content and scenarios in Australiana”.
Exuding authenticity and vitality, Australiana captures the beauty in everything and everyone. The photographs are bright, optimistic, and summon that pleasant laziness of a beachside afternoon, and indulging in the pleasures of unaffected play.

The Plus: Can you tell us a bit about what got you into photography in the first place? Has your style changed over time?


Simon Eeles:
I got into photography back in college, and after 4 years at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology I spent 8 years aboard finally finishing in NYC where I spent 4 years assisting. My work has changed dramatically in its technical approach, but the main ideas have almost remained the same. I want to enjoy the process of image-making as much as the talent I work with do.



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TP: You have a rich background in fashion photography, and seem to be able to bring out a special relationship with your subjects. Do you think your work in fashion has influenced this more candid collection?


SE:
It totally has, but not in the obvious way. Fashion photography has become very serious and there is a big focus on the ‘cool’. My images are my reaction against that, with Australiana being my first instalment. I give all my subjects the time and energy that I would the most important model, and usually they appreciate it more, which gives the images a different feeling.
The point is to find something special in all people: young, old, and of any sex and ethnicity.



TP: Can you tell us more about the stories behind these photographs? How do you chose your subjects?


SE:
Australiana is a visual postcard of home, and self-guided in that most of the characters have crossed my path organically. I toured the entire coastline and at times set up a tent where people could present themselves for a picture. The images in Australiana are about our nation under a changing global climate. We are essentially all immigrants to the country, but all warmed by the same sun.



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TP: What inspires you the most in your work and why?


SE:
The search for the “new” image is always my biggest inspiration. I love using people taken from the street, as the potential for novelty is much higher, and unknown.



TP: Your shots of ‘Australiana’ seem to share the aesthetic you sometimes see in ‘Americana’ photos – of commercial branding filtered down into small-town sun-kissed suburbia. Why this parallel, do you think?


SE:
Australia was an English colony up until my teen years, when we started looking towards the USA for cultural advice. Now the new generations grow up in a climate that is far removed from the humor and conditioning of the English.This, mixed with my time spent in NYC, was the formula for the book, but also one formed very subconsciously.

 

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TP: If you were not a photographer, what else could you see yourself doing?

SE:
Probably a farmer in Tasmania, as that was my first career path.

TP: What next?


SE:
I have just finished shooting my second book Far Far, which is a look at style in America. Based around the Rockaway beach, and shot over two summers, it is a more focused look at something that I thought was so important to us as a community that emphasizes style.

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Australiana is available now from Damiani’s Fall release collection.

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